Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Event: Making the Impossible a Possibility

Art by Candace Camling

Making the Impossible a Possibilty Retreat

October 22-24, 2021 

Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center, 120 E. Boyson Road, Hiawatha, IA

Registration opens Sunday, August 22 at 8:00 AM

 Registration Information:

  • Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the number of attendees is limited to 11 writers and 10 illustrators.
  • Attendees must be a member of SCBWI.
  • Proof of Covid-19 vaccination is required at check-in.
  • In the event Prairiewoods Retreat Center changes their Covid-19 policies to allow more people on-site, there will be a waiting list for attendees.
  • Writers will share two different polished picture books or polished scenes from a MG/YA manuscript for round table critiques. These should be different from the paid critique submission.
  • Illustrators will need to bring three copies of their dummy book or storyboard for critiquing purposes.
  • All meals are included in the cost of registration and feature primarily locally grown, organic ingredients, and can accommodate vegetarian, gluten-free and health-related diets. Meals are eaten in the Center and are served buffet style, including beverages, and freshly made desserts.


Retreat Expenses:

  • Private bedroom with a shared bathroom: $350.00
  • Private bedroom and bathroom in a hermitage: $350.00
  • Off-site lodging: $250.00



Payment can be made online during registration with a major credit card or sent by check to IA/MN SCBWI, 6732 Northview Drive, Urbandale, IA 50322


On-Site Critiques:

Written critiques are assigned as first-come-first-served basis and are $50.00 per critique.

  • Sam Gentry (Editor at Little Brown Books for Young Readers)
  • Alex Weiss (Azantian Literary Agency)

Submit the first 10 pages and a synopsis in standard manuscript format to by 5:00 PM on Sunday, September 10, 2021. Late submissions will be charged, but not critiqued. Your subject line should include the title of your manuscript and your name. (Example: The Best Novel Ever Written by Eileen Boggess).


On-Site Portfolio Reviews:

Portfolio reviews are assigned first-come-first served basis and are $50.00 per review.

  • Mallory Grigg (Art Director at Macmillan Publishing Group)



  • Questions about registration can be sent to Cindy Johnson at
  • Questions about everything else can be sent to Eileen Boggess at


Tentative 2021 Fall Retreat Schedule

W is for writers

I is for illustrators

A is for all attendees


Friday, October 22


A           1:00-1:30 PM Registration


A           1:30 PM Large Group Welcome/Introductions Conference Room


W         2:00-3:00 PM Round Table Critiques

Round Table A Critiques (Sam Gentry) Lounge at Retreat Center

Round Table B Critiques (Alex Weiss) Conference Room


I            2:00-3:00 PM Illustrator Presentation (Mallory Grigg) Art Room

How an Art Director works with an illustrator during editing a dummy book or storyboard.


A         3:00-3:30 PM Check into Rooms for People Staying On-Site


W         3:30-5:15 PM Continue Round Table Critiques for Writers

Round Table A Critiques (Sam Gentry) Lounge

Round Table B Critiques (Alex Weiss) Conference Room


I          3:30-5:15 PM Illustrator Workshop (Mallory Grigg) Art Room
Illustrators share and discuss their dummy books or storyboards with Mallory and other illustrators


A           5:30 PM Dinner Dining Room


A         6:15-7:15 PM Sam Gentry: A Day in the Life of an Editor (Conference Room)

Learn about the book-making process from start to finish from the Editor’s perspective. We will discuss everything from evaluating submissions from agents and the acquisitions board to the editing process and the joys of holding a finished book in your hands. More importantly, discover the real reason why you haven’t heard back about your submission in a timely manner! (Hint: there aren’t enough hours in the day!)


A           7:30-8:30 PM Team Trivia Conference Room


Saturday, October 23


A           8:00 AM Breakfast Dining Room


W       8:45-9:45 AM Alex Weiss: What Happens After an Editor Makes an Offer (Conference Room)


I          8:45-11:45 AM Illustrator Workshop (Mallory Grigg) Art Room
Illustrators share and discuss their dummy books or storyboards with Mallory and other illustrators. Work time to redraw and problem areas and make edits.


W         10:00-11:45 AM Round Table Critiques

Round Table A Critiques (Sam Gentry) Conference Room

Round Table B Critiques (Alex Weiss) Lounge

A           12:00 PM Lunch Dining Room


W         12:45-2:00 Continue Round Table Critiques

Round Table A Critiques (Sam Gentry) Conference Room

Round Table B Critiques (Alex Weiss) Lounge


I            1:00-5:00 Illustrator Work Time Art Room


I            1:00-5:00 PM 15 Minute Portfolio Reviews with Art Director Meditation Room


W         2:15-5:15 PM Creative Time/Face-to-Face Critiques for Writers

  • Sam Gentry Conference Room
  • Alex Weiss Conference Room


A           5:30 PM Dinner Dining Room


A         6:30-8:00 Pictionary Conference Room



Sunday, October 24


A           8:00 AM Breakfast Dining Room


W         8:45-10:30 AM Pitch/Idea/Questions Round Tables


I            8:45-10:30 AM Illustration Round Table to show work


A           10:30 AM Good-Byes



Samantha Gentry ­is an Editor at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, where she edits picture books, middle grade and young adult, both fiction and nonfiction. She has a particular interest in pop-culture tie-ins and platform-driven stories in nonfiction. She is always on the lookout for voice-driven middle grade with unforgettable characters, a friendship story at its core, interesting family dynamics, and a touch of magical realism. In picture books, she’d love to see character-driven stories with a touch of humor and quirk, but she’s also a sucker for the charming tales that feel like an instant classic. In YA, she is looking for stories and storytellers from diverse backgrounds, contemporaries with a strong and distinctive narrative voice, and a touch of romance is always welcome.

Mallory Grigg is an Art Director for Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group where she works on everything from picture books to middle grade chapter books to YA fiction. She resides in Brooklyn, New York.




Alexandra Weiss joined the world of publishing in 2016, as an associate agent with the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. In 2021, she joined Azantian Literary Agency where she represents fiction and nonfiction picture books, middle grade, young adult, graphic novels, and select adult nonfiction. She holds a BFA in creative writing and publishing from Columbia College Chicago and has written for Bustle and Buzzfeed, among others. She regularly volunteers with literary organizations and has a soft spot for working with young readers. When she isn’t reading or writing, she’s probably baking up a storm or snuggling with her cat.